A New Chapter for BabbleLabs…and Collaboration

In the past six months, the meaning of the phrase “going to work” has been upended. With travel restrictions, shelter-in-place and shuttered offices, all kinds of work are now remote. We spend our days and nights in video conferences and using collaboration tools. I talk as much as ever, but so much more of that talk is through my laptop and phone. I am wholly dependent on virtual collaboration tools, and most especially, on live speech streams with co-workers around the world. We have all necessarily become adept at squeezing the greatest possible understanding from flawed audio communications channels. The problems are fairly obvious to all of us – it’s background noise, reverberation, loss of fidelity through speech compression, and frozen, stuttering speech due to network packet loss. More than ever we need to do professional work in decidedly non-professional environments.

Since a small group of us founded BabbleLabs in late 2017, we have had a single-minded focus on using the latest ideas in deep learning and speech science to revolutionize the remote speech experience. In just over two and a half years we’ve brought to market remarkable software to essentially remove all background noise and enhance comprehension by both people and machines under the toughest real-world conditions. In fact, the application of deep learning to speech quality has triggered a huge change in what advanced software can do for noisy speech. We recently researched, implemented and measured the state-of-the-art noise reduction algorithms over the past 40 years using a consistent metric for quality (PESQ: ITU P.862) and a consistent speech data set (Interspeech 2020 DNS challenge). As you can see, in the past two years, the leading-edge deep learning algorithms from BabbleLabs (green) have eclipsed all prior methods.

We have been incredibly lucky that our technology is becoming ready for mainstream platform use just at the moment when technology companies, enterprises and a hundred million new workers-from-home have recognized the pressing need for something better.

This widespread recognition of the speech quality problem in collaboration and the invention of a fresh and effective software solution has triggered some intense new conversations. Just a few weeks ago, a conversation with Cisco led to a striking realization that our vision for the future of work and mission-critical speech correlated closely with the vision of the Cisco Collaboration platform leadership. That platform, including the industry leading Webex solution, is so important to world-wide enterprises that an integration of BabbleLabs technology into the Webex family could have rapid and profound impact. Moreover, the span of our AI innovation across speech enhancement, speech recognition and speech analytics meshes closely with the key innovations already underway within the Cisco Collaboration teams. We quickly reached a common view that merging BabbleLabs into the Cisco Collaboration team could accelerate our common vision dramatically. I’m thrilled to announce our agreement with Cisco to acquire BabbleLabs.

The BabbleLabs team is eager to get to work on integrating our technology into current Webex product families and creating never-before-heard speech capability to take collaboration to a new level. Our mission for being able to deliver the most natural and noise-immune speech communications and interface technology to hundreds of millions of people will now get pulled in by years!

In closing, it is clear that this major milestone for BabbleLabs is, in part, the result of our own intense teamwork from our 35 remarkable people in Silicon Valley, across the U.S. and Europe. I have never seen a team so well-equipped to innovate, and so eager to put heart and soul into working together to create algorithms and products that can change the world. Thank you. But it is not just that core group that deserves credit for BabbleLabs’ success so far. We have been blessed with a remarkable group of investors, as well as advisors, partners, and most especially, customers. We have been inspired by tough challenges from some of the most demanding companies on the planet, pushing the envelope with us and warmly encouraging this tiny group to do the impossible. What a testament to the spirit of collaboration and tech innovation that continues to thrive globally!

Last Updated: August 25, 2020 1:10pm

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